More than 80 manatees from around Florida are in rehab centers across state, including those at SeaWorld Orlando.
SeaWorld Orlando said winter is the busiest season for its manatee rehabilitation team.
Mallorie McCormack says that only 10 days into the new year, they’ve already received three manatees to care for, and more anticipated.
“We’ve received a lot of manatees that have been emaciated and suffering from starvation,” she said.
When ocean temperatures drop, manatees seek warmer water that they need to survive, and that searching can lead to extreme weight loss.
On top of that, cold water causes legions on their skin, similar to frostbite.
“Manatees are large animals, but they don’t have a lot of fat on them so they need to have warm water,” McCormack said.
Manatees also suffer from widespread starvation caused by pollution killing off the seagrass they need to survive cold months.
“They lost that foraging area in the Indian River Lagoon, so that has caused many of them to come to us,” McCormack said.
According to the latest stats, there are approximately 8,000 manatees in Florida. But their numbers are falling fast due to habitat loss.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s latest data shows more than 780 manatees died in Florida last year, and more than 1,000 died in the year prior.
Nursing manatees back to health can take months, if not years, depending on the case.
If you’re ever by the water and notice a manatee with lesions on its skin or that it isn’t floating correctly, you’re asked to contact FWC.